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Supported communication - science rejected it, religion adopted it

Prof. Yoram Billo from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Department of Psychology at the Hebrew University, told at the "Science and Apparent Science" conference recently held by the Open University how a practice in psychology - directing autistic people to letters to express themselves - that was discovered to be unfounded became the nail of the night in religious ceremonies about a decade ago

Prof. Yoram Billo. The Hebrew University
Prof. Yoram Billo. The Hebrew University

In recent years, the number of events, whether their intention is to return repentance, or simply to strengthen the faith of ordinary ultra-Orthodox, in which a boy or girl suffering from autism comes on stage, and with the help of a guide, they type experiences from their encounters with angels on the computer keyboard, and usually they strengthen the religious doctrine of their operators (Orthodox of course). It turns out that this practice has an apparently scientific origin, but as will become clear later only apparently.

On September 17, a session was held on the campus of the Open University in Ra'anana that dealt with science and alleged science, to mark the end of Prof. Gershon Ben Shahar's position as president of the Open University. Prof. Ben Shahar is known as the one who called into question the significant contribution of the use of the polygraph to uncover lies and of the graphology tests as a tool for occupational screening.

One of the lecturers at the conference was Prof. Yoram Billo from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and from the Department of Psychology who is known for his research on the worship of martyrs in Israel, and who researched the subject together with Yehuda Goodman, also from the Hebrew University.

"The ultra-Orthodox community made use of a technique developed within the clinical scientific discourse known as 'facilitated communication' and the applications and uses of this technique in the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel. This is a technique designed to treat children with communication impairments, especially autistic. "

The technique known as supported communication was developed in the clinical professional field in psychology by Rosemary Crossley, an Australian psychologist who developed it in the seventies in an attempt to make contact with the autistic. The method became popular in the USA in the 1992s and XNUMXs, by one of her students who in XNUMX at Syracuse University opened the Institute for Supported Communication within the School of Education. The institute conducted research, provided training for therapists, hosted seminars and conferences, published a quarterly newsletter and developed study materials promoting supported communication.

The use of the technique required a redefinition of the phenomenon of autism not as a disorder mainly characterized by intrusive cognitive problems, but as a disorder mainly characterized by disturbances and motor connections. A communication technique in support offers ways to overcome these motor connections and allow autistic children to express their inner world, with the help of technology.

The work is done by supporters who hold the hand of the autistic boy or girl and try to bring him or her closer to a letter board or computer keyboard. With the help of the keyboard, the autistic person creates words that connect to sentences, and the sentences will express the wishes and desires of the child. The technique produced surprising results. In quite a few cases they discovered that the children "talk" and discover cognitive abilities and a rich inner world. However, the technique also provoked a lot of criticism and in a short time a wave of criticism articles appeared according to which the supporters do the movements and not the children, and that the supporters give the answers. Although the conclusion was that this is not a case of fraud or charlatanism. But in the tremendous desire of the supporter to bring something out of the autistic child that causes them to activate the child as it were and attribute the answers to him. The accepted claim today in the professional literature is that the main effects of the supported communication are similar to undirected speech from the stomach, like weaning the speech for the child, when the supporter is the one who performs it. The conclusion was confirmed by controlled tests, where when they asked a question that the supporter did not know, the child who was asked through the supported media also did not know the answer. Easy sense scientific technique has become pseudo science or apparent science.

A decade after it was disproved by science, this practice reappeared, this time among a different audience of consumers: the ultra-Orthodox community. The debate came to the attention of ultra-Orthodox activists and they began to use the technique within the community. But the usage was different than the original usage. The meeting between autistic children on the one hand and the ultra-orthodox community on the other is a dramatic meeting between nature and culture.

Autism is one of the most problematic diseases that is seemingly unaffected by culture. Compared to the ultra-Orthodox community whose lifestyle and daily routine are constantly dictated by cultural norms.

"Communication in clinical support has become communication in metaphysical support. The type of channeling they do is channeling with higher worlds, the children act as mediums or prophets, communicating with metaphysical beings. The practice was carried out in different arenas: in private arenas and public arenas in front of large audiences, in front of huge screens, accompanied by advertising and distribution, posters, lectures, brochures, tapes, CDs. All of these spread the secrets, the discoveries of the autistic children achieved through the new communication technique.

It is important to say that the media's boom in support among the ultra-Orthodox community provoked a great deal of internal criticism. Two headlines from the informant - 'Autism and charlatanism', 'Autism without mysticism', but large parts of the ultra-orthodox community believe that this is indeed a method that allows a real connection with higher worlds."

"What actually created this accessibility, what caused the technique that came from the secular, scientific, professional world to seep into the ultra-orthodox community. What is the religious theasophical basis of supported communication in its new incarnation?

The activists promoting the use of the technique know the professional literature but cite it in a very speculative and selective way. They marvel at the revelations about the abilities of the autistic children and completely ignore the criticisms. In doing so, they take advantage of the prestige of the scientific discourse, in which everyone can express their opinion. In their opinion, science is powerless in the face of the "miraculous" findings and refuses to accept the circumstances (perhaps by doing so they excuse the scientific criticism that denies the method, AB). "We are faced with phenomena that scientists face without answers" The answers given by the ultra-Orthodox to the method come from a different epistemology - which is anchored in two main sayings - the first states that 'from the destruction of the temple the prophecy was given to fools and infants' and the second, in tractate Nida, talks about the fetus in its mother's womb looking from the end of the world to the end This omniscient distant gaze is in harmony with an all-encompassing inward gaze. He is taught the entire Torah. He has endless learning abilities.

What is the explanation for these infinite abilities of the fetus in its mother's intestine? The key is found in another sentence from the same treatise: 'And a candle burns above his head', where a candle is a metaphor for the human soul. The soul, without physical constraint, outside the limits of the material body, is a divine spark and is all-knowing and all-capable. As soon as the soul finds its place inside the body this ideal state ends. The angel slapping the baby's upper lip makes him forget everything he learned. When the soul in the body the human mind limits us more than it enables us. And from here we can understand why the autistic children are in a better situation in terms of discovering divine secrets. Their body is broken and their brain damage allows them to reach the divine affinity without hindrance. This is the dialectical religious rationale applied to this technology.'

"In these meetings, the children, in the name of the soul, praise God's presence in the world, God's providence, state their desire to fulfill His will, present the religious principles as a kind of natural desire. Here we have unequivocal evidence of the correctness of the old spirituality. The children's initial determinations confirm the principles of the faith, but also refer to the children's personal destiny."

"Autism is more or less a disorder of the beginning of life. Why can the punishment inflicted on the tender children be religiously attributed? The children's 'explanations' are unequivocal in this regard. All brain damaged people know that they have already lived in the world, know their former name, the names of their parents, the sin they committed because of which they were born this way. Their entire creation in the world is to go through the suffering designed to correct the sin for which they came into the world. The reappearance as an autist comes to mend his soul. Many children tell about the sin of slander, a type of repeated sin adapted to disorders where communication problems are involved. The children are equipped with wonderful abilities of prediction and discovery and a large part of the public discussions refer to them as prophets. Some of the prophecies are political and some are apocalyptic: among other things, it is stated in the brochures that summarized such meetings that the children gave a speech in which "the last words to the last generation - the end of the world is approaching, hurry up and do teshuvah". This is a very dramatic tone, and according to the audience's reactions - very effective.

To put this esoteric case in a wider context. We will touch on three points concerning broad comparative questions:

1. The interesting differences between clinically supported communication and metaphysically supported communication: many times it is possible to discover fascinating things that seem obvious to us and therefore we do not examine them within our milieu, unless we do so through the eyes of the other. In both cases the technique is similar but there is a different epistemology in terms of explanation. In both cases there is a perception of a kind of transcendence - the transcendental idiom of the clinically supported communication is a psychological idiom, which speaks of a hidden self, the idiom of the metaphysically supported communication is a cosmological idiom - the soul as a divine spark and the ability to communicate with other worlds; But ever since in the short history of the existence of the category of childhood autism (since 1943) autistic children have been attributed supernatural qualities, and the spiritual aura of these beautiful children, the fairy children, has been sought. The clinic is wrapped in a mystical aura. Magic of the mute self, the creative, poetic, intellectual self, trapped in a broken and mute body. These images resonate with the divine spark that represents the soul in the metaphysical sense. The activists in the ultra-Orthodox community see what they are doing as an attempt to remove stigma from these children. One of the things that sparked the discussions on the clinical level - were the reports of the children in treatment about sexual abuse. The disclosure of these secrets are the divine equivalent of the mystical elements.

2. The relationship between science and mysticism. Science is perceived by the ultra-Orthodox activists who appropriate this technique as a status symbol, as a representative of progress, but it is adapted to the needs of the ultra-Orthodox community. The feeling is one of empowerment - we can deal with science - and not of being idle. It is important to place the phenomenon as part of a wide field of increasing interest of the ultra-Orthodox community in all its nuances in special phenomena at the border of scientific investigation and which are very convenient to explain by metaphysical means - an experience of near death, levitation outside the body, trance, attachment or possession, telepathy, experimental healing, Hypnosis with an emphasis on previous incarnations.

3. Re-transmission of the possession: "When I was present the first few times in the scenes where the children report on their previous incarnations and the punishments imposed on their sinful souls, I had a feeling of déjà vu. At the time, I was dealing with obsessions - old phenomena that returned in the well-publicized case from 1999 of a woman from Dimona who was exorcised, in a ceremony that was even captured on video. In both cases, suffering people - possession is also seen as a disease by the community - are usually manipulated through a representative of the rabbinical establishment to reveal metaphysical secrets through the doctrine of reincarnation in order to justify the suffering and punishment imposed on them. The messages are given publicly in the form of apparent science, but for those present they are messages from the spirits. Here we have similar arenas of moral theater - where the social order wins. There is a conflict here with the deviation and its correction in some sense. In the case of possession, the spirit can be expelled, the therapeutic aspect is less clear in the case of the autistic child who cannot be cured, but at least the people should come out of the situation with a different, more positive view of the autistic child. We have in both cases a popular use of psychiatric categories.

Obsession has no specific definitions, but it is quite similar to what used to be called hysterical phenomena (today the term hysteria has disappeared from the list of psychiatric diseases). What is interesting is the fact that the heyday of obsession - the 19th century in the shtetl culture of Eastern Europe - corresponds to the period when hysteria more or less financed psychiatry in the second half of the 19th century. It is impossible to describe Freud without hysteria.

The obsession disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century along with the hysteria, and occasionally returns as an anecdote.

Autism is the psychiatric category chosen for use at the end of the 20th century. This is a new category. In 1943, a psychiatrist named Leo Kenner defined a group of children this way for the first time. Before they were seen as retarded or psychotic. There is a kind of match between the historical moment in terms of the psychiatric classification and the usage of the ultra-Orthodox community. This indicates the existence of a medicalization movement. The ultra-orthodox movement today is no longer able to produce its own cultural disturbances. And that is a significant difference. The obsession is built on a rich cultural script. On what psychiatrists call a culture-dependent syndrome that gives expression to the myths of the community but the script allows to heal the people - the possession ritual as psychotherapy is very effective for this reason. Autism is a disorder that defies cultural design. He is the empty fortress - according to Bruno Bettelheim. The autistic suffers from a lack, a deficit in behavior, not a behavioral excess, like the hysteric.

To conclude his lecture, Prof. Billo says that religious systems need maintenance, need refreshment, a kind of vitalization, and this they can get through certain stirring experiences, which connect the believer to holiness, mystical experiences. How are the mystical experiences produced? A simplistic division is related to the sociological concepts of center and periphery. Many times the center creates these experiences as esoteric elitist knowledge. The periphery also produces such experiences and the two examples I gave - supported communication and obsession are from the periphery.

A Hasidic story tells of Rabbi Mordechai of Mandvorna in the 18th century who fixed the reincarnated spirits of sinners, but in his case the spirits were not reincarnated into autistic people or people suffering from possession but into black bears. According to the legend, he placed a note with holy names in the bear's mouth, the bear said Shema Yisrael and breathed its last. The rabbi explained that it was the reincarnation of a Jew who sinned and was reincarnated as a black bear. In different periods, "others", deviants, marginal people, beings who are on the periphery are exploited by the center: black bears and gypsies, women and children usually from a low class, possessed, and autistic children in a time when psychiatry underwent a lot of medicalization. . It is not the power of the weak, it is the power of the strong, of the center that goes to the periphery and represents it to produce phenomena that justify the social order, that there is law and there is justice.

The deviants - the characters of the fringes - the others were often used as oxidizing basins of religious beliefs. Their suffering took on a moral significance and was used to attack religious beliefs.

More of the topic in Hayadan:

28 תגובות

  1. It's hard to believe and I hope that what was described no longer happens, but once again it turns out that for some of the religious businesses, under each sewer, there is another sewer

  2. And for the matter in question... the shows you like to dosh on do not exist. I spoke personally with the father of Daniel the Autist and he told me that he prefers not to publicize him too much at all and it is harmful to him, so stop the obscurations and the persecution of your legless blind religion

  3. I am a follower of the autistics and all their words are like Orim and Tummy and what can be said about the bar who filled it
    His mind and heart are the principals of a scientific religion that changes its mind every twenty years or so in complete contradiction to the sect that preceded it
    To deal with divine wisdom from the blessed God that has not changed to the ancient world and the truest of all the wisdoms of the land
    Your entire opinion on the religion of Israel is based on fragments of letters and fragments of words. Anyone who has read one page of the Talmud knows that all your wisdom is like a garlic peel compared to the sages of Israel and the Talmud was written for 300 years by the greatest sages of Israel. in our generation

  4. Not true, always when believers are confronted with the truth, then their strategy is to say that these are fringe groups, and there is always someone who has reservations and they make him the leader of the ad hoc generation. According to the researcher, these are activities that were done openly. If there was a procedural problem, the rabbis would have prohibited the holding of the events in advance.

  5. For the information of website visitors. The great rabbis of the generation disagree with the words of the autistic people and everything that is done and said around the subject.
    Unfortunately, due to the loss of faith and the loss of the way, many good people fall into the hands of fraudsters and charlatans
    Those who deal with card reading in a cafe have different connections and teachings, and there are also many who take advantage of Kabbalah and the innocent faith of the people by selling amulets and spells for the sake of money.
    Those who engage in this belong to all sectors and many are among the most fearless people.

  6. Michael
    A well-known rule in the Talmud is invalid for witnessing (deaf, foolish and small)
    On the other hand, from the day the Supreme Court was defeated, a prophecy was given to fools.
    And that's what they rely on.

  7. Avi:
    You asked "Why do I think you have selective vision?"
    The answer to this question is clear:
    They have selective vision - that's why it seems that way to you.

  8. My use of the word abuse in one of the talkbacks was in response to the site a talkbackist referred to earlier, and not necessarily to the specific article. Dr. Billow did not use that word and I did not write it.

  9. We will try to answer one by one.
    Both ultra-Orthodox and secular are human beings, and therefore they have the same diseases and problems, including autism, call it what you will.
    This organization takes advantage of the children, because what they supposedly say are actually the words of the therapists, and in the opinion of a therapist, the relationship is no more important than the opinion of any other person. They are probably saying things in praise of God.

    In Christianity there is a similar phenomenon - people who claimed to have seen Mary, and how does the church determine that they did see Mary after the interrogation? If Maria told them things they wanted to hear, they get the priests' approval, and if she criticized the church, they would claim it was just a dream. That way they can never be wrong….. But has anyone really talked to Maria Haber-Minan for two thousand years?

    Prof. Billo is a sociologist and therefore does not represent the pharmaceutical companies. Those companies that you despise so much, managed in the last hundred years to double the average life expectancy from 40 to 80, so a little modesty. I have a lot of criticism for them, but you also have to give them credit.
    As for the murders of children, I am not sure that in all cases these are secular women, in any case, these are insane women. And what about the abuse of children in Beit Shemesh? Also, is the mecca there secular? And what about the people from Jerusalem who killed his son and the entire ultra-Orthodox community stood behind him and when he was arrested they burned tires and trash cans? Why do I think you have selective vision?

  10. The reporter I am quoting writes "Autism is one of the most problematic diseases that is seemingly unaffected by culture. Compared to the ultra-Orthodox community whose lifestyle and daily routine are constantly dictated by cultural norms."

    So for anyone who thinks like that, let them know that autism is not a disease! Not even according to scientific standards, as far as is known, nothing viral or a virus is involved in it.

    The "sickness" if it exists, is likely to be found only in people and in a society that thinks there are classes between people, from the moment or even before their birth and without any possibility to advance. A "liberal" society that advocates that a person seemingly deserves all the rights of freedom and individuality, but in fact states quite firmly that this person is poor, that he has no essence and independent opinion of his own.

    And here is an organization that, since nearly two decades ago, has put the autistic people at the front of the stage, with a committee, and not deep in the depths of the basements and closed classrooms from the human eye on the street. And he claims that not only is there no flaw in them, but that in fact these are people with special and outstanding virtues and that he strives in every way to get those people to express their opinion. That organization (which you call religion) is interested in promoting the expression of those people and treating their words as seriously as it treats the most influential people within it (the rabbis).

    Regarding hints or allegations of abuse, let's see who in the scientific/secular world is really abusing and making money at the expense of the autistic?

    Are these drug corporations and psychiatric "medicines" that generate billions of dollars a year such as the Rasperidel drug and the other "Paracetamols" that actually cure nothing except for the coffers of many vested interests and learned professionals.

    Are these perhaps hundreds of frameworks and supporting professionals that did not exist at all until 100 years ago? And without perpetuating autistics as disabled and mindless retards, in fact they have no right to exist?

    Are these the three murders that were reported to us in just the last year, in all of which lousy mothers murdered their children in a kind of euthanasia because, according to their claim, they were suspected of having "the autistic disability, everything, everything is terrible"?

  11. 1) The ultra-Orthodox society will do itself and autists a favor if it does not appropriate fools (autists in halachic language) to prove the righteousness of its ways. As a person of faith, this is very jarring to me.

    2) I completely object to the punchline:
    "Prof. Billo says that religious systems need maintenance... and they can get this through certain exciting experiences... mystical experiences"

    nonsense. Charlatans who want a fan base need mystical experiences.

    Judaism, which has never been missionary, does not need a congregation of admirers.

    Judaism survived very well for 2000 years in exile, persecutions in the Crusades, the Inquisition and even a terrible and terrible holocaust that has never been seen before in all of human history.

    And there is still a flourishing religious Judaism in Israel and in the world, and we have never needed "mystical reinforcements".

    The conclusion is completely unfounded. No rabbi would rule that Jews should go to transcendental performances to strengthen their faith permanently, nor temporarily.

    No rabbi (a real one, not Elior Chen and his ilk), would agree to such a thing (that is, not even for a single performance).

    The average Jew (meaning most Jews) has never heard of Rabbi Mordechai Mandvorna.
    The average Jew was never and is not interested in this nonsense. Yes, not even most of the ultra-Orthodox you despise so much.

    3) An important rule, which, apart from once, is not violated in Jewish Halacha is "the end does not justify the means". Whenever this rule was violated, it was to write the Torah in the Bible, because they were afraid that it would be forgotten due to the persecutions and pogroms, etc.

    So whatever the message, autistic children must not be abused. Even if he announces the coming of the Messiah in his honor and by himself.

    Whoever tells you that the message is important, therefore it is permissible to commit such a serious offense in Judaism, understands nothing and half nothing about Jewish law and the lifestyles of religious Jews.

    4) However, I do not understand exactly where the proof is that there is abuse of autistic children here. Cynical and inappropriate use - yes. But where is the abuse? The hate drives you nuts, this article did not claim anywhere that autistic children are being abused. This is a baseless accusation by one of the tobakists here.

  12. Of course there is no problem with that. The problem is with those who use the autistics to refresh the religious experience, so what if the autistics don't even know how they are being used.

  13. True, most autistics who express themselves are not dealing with religious messages, but with social messages.
    For example, here is a video by autistic Amanda Buggs, who uses voice synthesis software to express her criticism of society's treatment of autistics:
    In the first part of the video, she only expresses herself in autistic ways.
    In the second part of the video, she explains her autistic ways of expression, so that they can be understood by the general public.

    And here is an interview with the director of the British branch of the Aspie Women's Association, which was filmed during a demonstration held by British autists against the extradition of the British Aspie Gary McKinnon to the USA:
    ("Aspie" is a person with Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism).

  14. Only people with extremely severe autism do not express themselves at all. (about 5% to 10% of the autistic population).
    Most autistics are able to express themselves (if not in speech, then through writing) and lead an independent life.
    There are many organizations that are operated by autistic people -
    For example:
    1) AS - the community of people on the autistic spectrum in Israel:
    (You can communicate with us through our forums: )
    2) The autistic self-representation network:
    3) The International Autistic Network:
    4) Espiz for Freedom:
    5) Rong Planet:
    and so'

  15. Jacob:
    And how do you "know" that the messages are "important"?
    Just because they managed to work on you with such stupid methods.
    Wrong messages cannot be important.

  16. Avi Blizovsky
    This is indeed abuse and delusion. People are looking to believe in something and get their faith reinforced.
    The source of the destruction in the world is such false beliefs.

  17. To Jacob, the site you referred to further illustrates the abuse of the helpless, the messages are not important because they are invented by the mediators anyway, who put in the mouths of the autistic people messages they want to convey and for some reason these messages always support the dominant religious position. Note that the churches tested the reliability of reported encounters with the Virgin Mary, according to the result test. They dismissed messages that called for reform in the church on the grounds that Mary could not have conveyed such messages.

    If you understood Prof. Billo's words, the whole show is intended to strengthen the religious faith of the listeners, and there is not even half of it between the truth of the messages.

  18. The matter has been known to me for a long time and it is quite saddening and percolating. Why do associations for children with special needs not do anything about it?

    In any case, the matter is not particularly surprising.

  19. 1. Franco, come on, read the article again. Your response is shocking.
    2. And on the non-scientific side of the issue: the State of Israel and its powerless attorney's office
    And the police, afraid to put an end to the abuse of ultra-Orthodox children,
    out of fear of confronting the strong communities in which they grow up. abuse
    which lasts an entire evening with the participation of thousands of criminals...
    It is similar to the freak shows that were common in England and the USA in the century
    The nineteenth, before a term like human dignity and freedom were clear to man
    the western

  20. Franco:
    1. If you read the article, you will see that it does not describe any action that justifies your words, at any university.
    2. The university where she gave the lecture condemning the phenomenon is the Open University (on its campus in Ra'anana)

  21. Ra'anana University campus - like the Bar Ilan campus, incubators for the cultivation of ignorance and religious coercion. breeding grounds for a new generation of brainwashed religious people.
    All this under the guise of science.

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